The Somali-American icon and artist of international fame recently visited Somali refugees in the Dadaab camps in northern Kenya located near the Somali border. Hodan Nalayeh of the US-based Somali Refugee Awareness Project, has been travelling with Saado Ali during her Kenyan trip.
During her tour of the camp, Saado Ali met with the UN Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Mr. Antonio Guterres. Approximately 450,000 Somalis are crammed in Dadaab, the World largest refugee camp.
Saado Ali Warsame urged Somali refugees to “keep hope alive that our country will return and the dignity of Somali people will be restored.” As she sang the Somali national anthem, many refugees cried and sang along.
During a conversation with Mr. Guterres, she asked the UN Commissioner to define his plan for Somali refugees who have been caught in a cycle of uncertainty lasting the 20 years spanning the protracted Somali civil war. Saado Ali pressured Guterres to urge the United States Department of State to resettle Somali refugees in America by restoring the P-3 Program, which in the past reunited refugees with their families.
Mr. Guterres agreed to advocate for the resettlement program and pledged to bring the matter to the attention of relevant authorities in the US. There are currently 30,000 Somali-American families willing to sponsor refugees.
This concession by the UN Humanitarian chief is significant given that the long forgotten Somali refugee crisis, that has virtually escaped the attention of world leaders and governments, is now poised to take a centre stage in the global arena. Thanks to Saado Ali Warsame’s relentless international campaign to bring global attention to this crisis. Somali refugees now see hope in her ongoing efforts. Equally worthy of praise is Hodan Nalayeh who has worked hard to facilitate Saado Ali’s timely intervention in this crisis.
The Somali-American mega star’s prominent stature within the global Somali community as well as her international fame, bring her much needed star power to galvanize global action to alleviate the plight of the long suffering refugees.
While Somali leaders from different regions of the country more concerned with regime security and personal political ambitions as opposed to human security continue to globe-trot the world to beef up support for their federal or regional administrations, Saado Ali Warsame has been the only high profile Somali personality to visit Dadaab camps to bring hope to Somali refugees in their most difficult hour.
When it comes to humanitarian affairs of their beleaguered nation, these two powerful Somali women have become the real movers and shakers in this difficult terrain, challenging international actors, demanding swift action to resolve the Somali refugee crisis as well as calling for accountability on how aid geared toward Somalia is spent by unscrupulous NGOs based in Nairobi.
Undoubtedly, Saado Ali's refugee advocacy at international level and timely visit of the Dadaab camps at the height of a crippling drought that has forced thousands of refugees into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia has sent shockwaves through the international humanitarian community that is now taking notice. She is bringing hope to Somali refugees and her concerted efforts would undoubtedly push the international community to act. More than ever before, progressive forces should rally behind her so as to bring dignity and hope to the long suffering refugees.
The newest refugees to the Dadaab camps are from the Sool, Sanaag and Cyn (SSC) region of northern Somalia. According to a press release issued in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Somali Refugee Awareness Project, these refugees have been forced to live their once prosperous lands by the Somaliland military occupation that has blocked aid to the victims of disaster in this region.
Speaking to the Digital Journal from Nairobi during an exclusive phone interview, Saado Ali and Hodan highlighted the plight of the SSC people.
“These people who have been displaced by the Somaliland military occupation in the Lasanod area and environs, have been forced to travel thousands of miles in scorching heat. Malnourished children have died on the way while their emaciated mothers are dying at the doorsteps of the Dadaab camps.” says Hodan.
“Through intimidatory tactics and violence, the people of SSC are being driven out of their indigenous territory by the Somaliland government that is using warlords who are terrorizing residents of this region. Lately, three women activists have been murdered in this region” adds Hodan.
Both Saado Ali and Hodan state that “anyone who speaks out against human rights violations in this region are either killed or driven away. The media is restricted and are not allowed to report from this region. Even Universal TV, a major Somali news outlet which carries news items on Somaliland, doesn’t report from the SSC region”.
Saado Ali says that “due to ongoing blockade, news organizations including the BBC, VOA etc are not allowed into the region. Even the local media are barred from reporting. The Somaliland government has even taken over a local radio station”.
“200,000 SSC residents who have been driven from their ancestral lands now call Daadab refugee camp their home. We want the UN to come up with a smart solution. It should do the right thing by ending the occupation in SSC territories. It should then move the displaced SSC residents back to their lands. This would help the people restore their normal life and rebuild their lives” says Saado Ali.
In terms of human rights abuses, Hodan noted that the Somaliland administration is doing exactly the same thing to the SSC residents the former military regime did to the residents of Somaliland, adding that “Al-Shabab is driving out people from South-Central Somalia away into refugee camps. Somaliland is doing the same, driving out SSC residents into far away refugee camps.”
They also accuse both the Somaliland and Puntland administrations of orchestrating a move that misled the international community to declare the SSC region as a “disputed territory”.
“Declaring the region “disputed territory” allows both the Puntland and Somaliland administrations to lay claims on this region and also claim aid on behalf of the SSC residents. They would divert all this aid to their own coffers while nothing reaches the people of SSC” says Hodan.
Saado Ali says that “2 million people in the region lack the basic necessities of life including healthcare and clean and safe water. The international community must act quickly to end the impasse in this region. We don’t want residents of this region and those in other parts of Somalia to be pushed endlessly into inhospitable refugee camps in neighbouring countries. We need to bring stability to their regions so that they can go back and once again, live in peace, freedom and dignity”.
According to Hodan, the oil factor is also compounding the crisis in the SSC region. “Lasanod area and Nugaal region in general is rich in oil and gas and other natural resources. This is driving our neighbours to lay false claims on our territory. We don’t subscribe to secessionist agenda. The SSC region is part and parcel of a united Somalia. We believe in the uniformity of Somali territories. Our people should be allowed to live in peace and dignity in their ancestral lands that are part of wider Somalia. “says Hodan.
N.B: The Digital Journal has attempted to solicit the views of Somalilanders. Requests for interviews to present Somaliland’s position on this matter were sent to the Somaliland Ambassador in Canada and the Somaliland Canadian Society of Toronto. By the time of going to press, none had responded to this request.